Amazing thought it may seem, this week marks the 30th anniversary of The Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
It was a very different world in many ways. The Soviet Union had fallen apart and it looked as if the world would become entirely democratic. This was exemplified by an unfathomably stupid book title: The End Of History.
It was wildly arrogant but in a basketball sense, it was perhaps the end of history. Or if not, at least the turning of a page.
In 1988, the USSR had won Olympic gold for a sort of last hurrah and following that, Olympic basketball was opened to professionals.
So in 1992, the US took the Dream Team which included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin and others, notably including Duke’s Christian Laettner, who would become the last college player to ever suit up for Team USA.
That team rocked the basketball world. In this video, you can see looks of astonishment on the faces of opponents and hear the delight of fans. The US was playing on an entirely different level and the other teams around the world were willing to take some beatings to get to that level.
Today, teams from Spain, Greece, Argentina, Lithuania, Serbia, France, Australia, Canada and others are legitimate threats to American hegemony. In the 2024 Paris Games, we could see Giannis Antetokounmpo play for Greece, Luka Doncic for Slovenia and possibly Tyrese Proctor and Jack White for Australia - and don’t forget that Victor Wenyama, who could be revolutionary, will likely play for France.
Clearly we will never see anything like the Dream Team again, so look back and enjoy.
Side note: in 1986, the late Lute Olson took a team to Spain for the FIBA World Championship which featured UNC’s Kenny Smith, Duke’s Tommy Amaker and most of all Wake Forest’s 5-3 Muggsy Bogues. Bogues fascinated the Spanish, who adored him and who invited him back to be a grand marshall for a parade, but NCAA rules of the day disallowed it. That team is forgotten, but to an extent it may have set the table for the Dream Team.